Monday, May 30, 2011

Endeavour flyaround complete

Its flyaround complete, Endeavour has fired thrusters to begin temporarily moving away from the International Space Station.

Endeavour undocked from the station at 11:55 p.m. Sunday to end a stay of nearly 12 days.

Pilot Greg Johnson orchestrated a 360-degree revolution around the outpost that offered views of it in its final configuration.

The Endeavour crew installed a $2 billion cosmic ray detector, a pallet of spare parts and an inspection boom that together added more than 27,000 pounds of mass.

The station, in turn, showed Endeavour beneath it flying over gray seas, white cloud formations and a brown land mass, the doors to its mostly empty payload bay still open.

At 1:07 a.m., thrusters fired for the first of two separation burns.

But rather than leaving the station behind for good, the burns will distance Endeavour by 3.5 miles to set up another rendezvous with the station.

The maneuver will test automated rendezvous and docking sensors in development for future spacecraft.

One of the recorders intended to collect data from the re-rendezvous is not working, but teams on the ground say they got about three-fourths of what they hoped to get during Endeavour's initial rendezvous and docking May 18.

The test will wrap up around 4:30 a.m., when Endeavour will begin its journey home to a planned touchdown at Kennedy Space Center early Wednesday.

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